A HEALTHY DOSE OF IRONY

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During a recent ESPN Sunday Night broadcast former Mets manager Bobby Valentine was asked, “At what point do you have a good idea of what your team is?

Valentine replied, “45 games.”

Ironically, former Mets general manager Jim Duquette remembers the Mets, both Duquette and Valentine included, were parties in the teams annual “report card” meetings.

“At that point you had a really good feeling, combined with Spring Training, you had a good sense of what your ballclub was all about; the sense of your strengths and weaknesses, and the hope was you were in the playoff mix at that point and you can deploy your scouts in a way to go improve your team via trade,” Duquette said in a phone interview.

Duquette began his baseball career with the Mets in 1991, as a member of the team’s scouting department. He became the assistant Director of Player Development in 1995. After a season with the Houston Astros, Duquette returned as the team’s Director of Player Personnel in 1997, before being promoted to the assistant general manager’s job in 1998. By June 2003, Duquette was thrust into the interim role of general manager after Steve Phillips’ dismissal.

As the Mets stumbled through May finishing the month 25-30, the organization felt changes were in order. The Mets would begin adding youth and cutting rope with the overpaid, underperforming veterans. Now, eight years later and two general managers later, the Mets are not far removed from similar circumstances.

“That’s an interesting point,” said Duquette. “Ironically, that’s right at the time we brought Reyes up. Now, potentially, he’s going to become a free agent at the end of the season.”

Pop goes another irony: Jose Reyes, the oft-injured 27-year old three-time All-Star who has led the league in triples and stolen bases in three seasons.

“The total evaluation of him (Reyes) is still ‘to be determined,’” said Duquette. “The feeling was he was going to be an above-average, most-of-the-time All-Star. Due to injury he’s been a tick below that, but he’s still a pretty darn good player.”

Reyes’ future as a Met remains in limbo. Duquette, on the other hand, believes Reyes is a keeper.

“I have a little different take,” he said. “I come from a biased perspective. I look at Reyes, his age, his ability, his desire to stay with the organization; all the factors. The replacement for him? I don’t think there’s many players out there who can compete with the type of player Jose is – and will still be. My inclination is to keep him in the organization and sign him long-term.”

In 2003, during the Mets last recognized “fire sale,” Duquette made his first deal in the midst of the 2005 All-Star Game in Chicago when the Mets GM came to “an agreement” Brian Cashman to send Armando Benetiz to the New York Yankees. Outfielder Jeromy Burnitz and second baseman Roberto Alomar were also dealt within a week’s time.

“The players have a pretty good sense of what’s happening, you get to the trade deadline and you’re either a buyer or seller,” said Duquette. “What the current leadership must contend with is can they establish value for the players, can they get value in return – or value-plus?”

Which raises an interesting point: Reyes is healthy – and performing. He is batting .314 with eight stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .352. If the Mets shortstop stays hot, or potentially gets white hot, might a playoff team present a “gross overpay” to the Mets and GM Sandy Alderson?

Hello irony – again.

Carlos Beltran was in that unique position following his eye-popping 2004 post-season performance with the Houston Astros. He single-handedly torched the Atlanta Braves, hitting four home runs and knocking in nine runs in the National League Division Series, then followed with four more homers in the NLCS against the Cardinals. Beltran had 20 hits (eight home runs) and 14 RBI in 12 games propelling him to a seven-year, $119 contract with the Mets.

A point which sounds promising, until Duquette adds, “Then you lose him and you’re stuck with draft picks,” he said. “Those are the cards that Sandy has to deal with.”

What a deal.

Whatever direction Sandy Alderson and the Mets decide on in the coming weeks and months, Duquette believes the team has better quality players to use as trade bait. According to the rumor mill that list consists of Francisco Rodriguez, Mike Pelfrey, Beltran and, possibly, Reyes.

“We didn’t have a player of his caliber and talent to put out on the trade market,” Duquette said, thinking back to the 2003 scenario. “If we did, we would have gotten a lot in for him. We were stuck with Alomar, Burntiz and Benetiz.”

There is no good news in these threads of irony, only the hope that a lesson will be learned.

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About the author

John Strubel

Hi. My name is John Strubel. Thanks for visiting my website. I write primarily about my passion: baseball. In addition, I occasionally publish posts and podcasts related to sports media, journalism and technology impacting the industry. You can also connect with me on social media @johnstrubel.

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